Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Wildfire probability models calibrated using past human and lightning ignition patterns can inform mitigation of post-fire hydrologic hazards

February 17, 2022

Most wildfires are started by humans, however, geographic variation of potential ignition sources is not often explicitly accounted for in wildfire simulation modelling or risk assessments. In this study, we investigated how patterns of human and lightning ignitions can influence modelled fire simulations and demonstrate how these data can be used to assess post-fire flooding and sediment transport. We used historical ignition data (1992–2015) to characterize ignition patterns for thirteen mountain ranges in southern Arizona, United States, and developed FlamMap burn probability (BP) models for three scenarios: human ignition, lightning ignition, and random ignition. We then developed a watershed-scale case study assessing the impacts of ignition scenarios on post-fire hydrology using the KINEROS2 model that simulates runoff and erosion. BP models illustrated considerable differences in landscape fire risk between the three ignition scenarios. Results from the watershed model indicate the greatest impacts from the post-fire human ignition scenario, with a 10-fold increase in sediment discharge and four-fold increase in peak flow compared to pre-fire conditions. Our results show that consideration of ignition source and location is important for assessing fire risk, and our modelling approach provides a planning mechanism to identify locations most at risk to fire-induced flood hazards, where prevention and mitigation activities can be focused.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Wildfire probability models calibrated using past human and lightning ignition patterns can inform mitigation of post-fire hydrologic hazards
DOI 10.1080/19475705.2022.2039787
Authors Miguel L. Villarreal, Laura M. Norman, Erika Yao, Caroline Rose Conrad
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk
Index ID 70228902
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Geographic Science Center